Can you and I become Christs w/o the Cross? No. Emphatically, no. What it is to be the Christ (a Christ) is to be crucified. Christ and Cross are bound together historically, theologically, psychologically, and (big theology word alert!) eschatologically; that is, according to the logic of Christ's return in glory at the end of the age. Over the centuries, many have preached Christ w/o the Cross, attempting to extract what they like about the faith and exclude what they don't. These efforts turned the Catholic faith into a circus of ethical philosophies, or political systems, or therapeutic programs. All of these have failed, are failing, and will fail b/c the good of Christ is inextricably bound to the sacrifice of the Cross. How do we know this? Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” He does not say, “Whoever wishes to come after me must exalt himself, blame others for his sufferings, and do his own thing.” Following Christ has never been and cannot be about settling into the world as a comfortable cog. Following Christ is about being a faithful servant, a hopeful irritant.
What the world needs us to be is poorly paid actors, mouthing a script. Shout this slogan for our politician. Process this procedure according to this policy. Buy this stuff with this currency. Make this product your idol. This celebrity your god. Kill these people. Dance. Line up. March. The world thrives on power, believing itself divine and rebelling against God. Anyone who denies self cannot be a full-time consumer. Anyone who picks up a cross cannot be self-absorbed. Anyone who follows Christ cannot be an obedient actor in the world's comedy. Anyone who does what Christ commands is an irritant b/c the world knows that Christ is King. But it will not kneel. Our mission is to live in the world and show that kneeling to Christ, becoming Christs for others, is the way to freedom and joy. We don't conquer the world by fighting the world. We can't win on any battlefield against guns and bombs. Our fight is at once larger and smaller. Larger b/c we are in a spiritual battle. Smaller b/c the battle is internal. The cosmic war of Good vs. Evil is a Manichean myth. We are not pawns in a black and white chess game played by warring deities. Rather, each one of us is in a match played against the self. This is why Paul must say, “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” If you and I can say the same, then we are only competing with ourselves for the prize of becoming Christ on the Cross.